LAFC Wins 4-1 In Preseason Home Opener
Yes it is only preseason, but what a preseason game it was.
Bob Bradley did not hold back and selected his best XI available for the match last night vs J-League side Vissel Kobe. Coach Bradley took the international friendly serious and came out with a strong and familiar line-up. Eight of the eleven players were regular starters last season with the club. Due to necessity, Bradley inserted Shaft Brewer Jr. at right-back due to Steven Beitashour recently picking up an undisclosed injury and the Segura/Blackmon partnership made its second consecutive start.
As for Vissel Kobe, the three World Cup winners were on the pitch for kickoff: Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Lukas Podolski.
The first 15 minutes of the game were possession-oriented football from LAFC. This style of play has been engraved into the players and was well executed last night. Adama Diomande had a clear opportunity in the 3rd minute to score his first goal of 2019 but his shot was blocked by GK Daiya Maekawa. Dio needs to finish his chances if he wants to continue being the No. 1 option up top for Bradley with Ramirez and Zelaya ready to jump in.
From minutes 15-30, Vissel Kobe took over, dominated possession of the ball and was dangerous in attack but failed to capitalize. Iniesta was able to display his class and skill to the delight of the 18,000+ fans that showed up to Banc of California Stadium.
After half an hour, LAFC regained control of the game through their captain Carlos Vela. In the 32nd minute, the Mexican international received the ball inside the box, adjusted his body so the ball can be on his left foot and curled a shot to the far post. Golazo. It was a classic Vela goal and celebrated as if to say “This is my house and I am here to stay”.
Ten minutes later, Vela found himself 1v1 with a Vissel Kobe defender on the right side and left him on the ground while cutting to the right. As he entered the box, Vela adjusted his body again and curled the ball to the second post with a very limited angle. 2-0 LAFC.
The crowd erupted in joy and was happy to see their beloved star shine for LAFC a week after all the rumors of him leaving the club. It is apparent that Vela loves playing for LAFC, loves the fans and looks very happy to be here.
A bright spot for me in the first half was Tristan Blackmon, the young RB converted CB by Bob. Blackmon was solid in defense, disciplined and seemed very comfortable playing in that position. Eduard Atuesta also played a very good half as he displayed confidence on the ball and provided balance in the midfield.
For the second half, Bradley switched out his entire team with the exception of GK Tyler Miller. Vissel Kobe “only” switched out 6 players and kept the three legends on the field.
Both teams had players on the pitch that were trying to make the first team. The desire in the players made the second half a bit more intense and less technical than the first. In the 60th minute, Iniesta, Villa and Podolski were all subbed out. The images of Iniesta floating in the midfield with the ball at his feet, Villa’s quick movements on/off the ball and Podolski’s explosiveness will forever be remembered.
After their departure, it became a wide open game. In the 72ndminute, Jamaican international Peter-Lee Vassell crossed the ball into the box off a free kick and it found the head of defender DejanJakovic. The Canadian redirected the trajectory of the ball and into the goal. 3-0.
There were ten minutes left in the game and I asked myself, “Will LAFC be able to hold on to this lead without conceding a goal in the last portion of the match?” The answer was no. The curse continued last night when Hatsuse slotted in a free kick past Tyler Miller’s fingertips into the top right corner. 3-1. However, LAFC would answer right back.
In the 86th minute, Kevin Mendoza scored his first goal for the club in an unassisted goal that sealed the deal for LAFC. The 25 year-old from Mexico City will surely look to build upon his performance to make the first team roster.
The final score was 4-1 in favor of LAFC, who got their second consecutive win of the 2019 preseason. It was a great night for the Black & Gold faithful. Yes it is only preseason, but the fact that the team took a friendly this serious means the club is headed in the right direction.
Good To Know:
-LAFC improves to a 2-0 record in the 2019 preseason
-Steven Beitashour (injury), Mohamed El-Munir (not 100% fit), Mark-Anthony Kaye (precautionary reasons), Josh Perez (injury), Danilo Silva (pending visa/immigration issues), Christian Ramirez (USMNT) and Walker Zimmerman (USMNT) were all not available for this match.
-Kevin Mendoza became the second draftee this year to score for LAFC as Peter-Lee Vassell scored in the first preseason match.
-Bob Bradley selected the same starting XI from the Toronto game with the exception of Shaft Brewer Jr., and AdamaDiomande. Both were due to injuries from Steven Beitashourand Josh Perez.
-The second half starting XI was identical to the TFC matchwith the exception of Javi Perez and Adrien Perez. Javi Perez replaced Baggio Husidic who did not dress and Adrien Perez replaced Kevin Mendoza but came in for him after.
-Andre Horta played a decent game by showing flashes of what he is capable to do. He did turn the ball over a few times in the midfield but connected well with teammates and had a rocket shot that went just wide. Need to see more of him to make a proper assessment.
-Latif Blessing has been playing with the reserves during the preseason, which makes me assume that he will be used as a “super-sub” during the regular season. We will have to wait and see.
-Eduard Atuesta has the defensive mid position locked down. He looks very solid and I would not take him out of the starting lineup anytime soon.
“Awesome crowd. Little bit of good football but lots of good things and positives at this point in preseason.
Photo By Benjamin Virgen
“The level of MLS is improving and this game was a reflection of that. LAFC is a great team with a great stadium and great fans.”
Photo By Benjamin Virgen
“The way our team performed tonight was very good and overall it was a great atmosphere”.
Photo By Benjamin Virgen
February 1, 2019
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Photography Credit to LAFC.